A Tractor Collection in the Magic Valley
Bill Rosenof's antique tractor collection started on the family farm in Idaho's Magic Valley.
Bill Rosenof thought he had died and gone to heaven when he began farming with this pressurized cab-equipped International 784. The tractor is in original condition except for a recently repainted hood and cab.
When auto-body artist and successful businessman George Rosenof moved his family to Idaho's Magic Valley, his plan was to do a little farming.
But in the process George germinated an embryonic agricultural interest in his teenage son Bill that quickly developed into a full-fledged and enduring passion. "We moved from Rock Springs, Wyo., to Twin Falls when I was 13," Bill explains, reminiscing about his love affair with farming and small-scale machinery. "We started in 1944 with 20 irrigated acres, and I've been at it ever since."
It didn't take George long to realize he enjoyed running his own auto-body repair business more than he did farming, so after a few years he turned over much of that responsibility to Bill. By the time Bill graduated from high school in 1950, he was responsible for working the family's 20 acres on his own and had developed a successful small-scale custom business on the side. "Dad bought a Farmall Cub new in 1947," Bill recalls. "I worked that tractor hard after school and plowed most of the gardens in our neighborhood." He also worked for neighboring farmers whenever he got the chance and soaked up everything he could learn from them just as the valley's fertile soils soaked up irrigation water diverted from the Snake River.
Bill's hard work paid off and before long he was dealing on a tractor of his own. "The first tractor I bought myself was a 1943 Farmall A," Bill explains while pointing out a front-bolster strengthening modification he made to one of his old row crop tractors. "I bought that tractor with a plow, cultivators and a 6-foot sickle bar mower for around $700." The first season he had the tractor, an 18-acre plot of edible-type seed peas more than paid for it. "You could make a living farming pretty easily back then," Bill says, laughing. "But not every crop was a winner."
One of Bill's most memorable years was 1951 because it included a contract to grow 8 acres of carrot seed. "We had to pull the carrot plants whole and form them into windrows by hand"' Bill says. "Later, we forked those windrows into a modified International Harvester 503 combine." Though plenty of seed accumulated in the harvester-thresher's grain tank, it was light as a feather. "They paid a pretty good price per pound of seed," Bill says, shaking his head. "But with the labor involved and the seed's low density, it just wasn't worth it in the end."
Undeterred by the carrot seed caper, Bill continued to focus his efforts on garden seed and other specialty crops for the next half decade and he enjoyed every minute of it.
Magic in the valley
Part of what makes Idaho's Magic Valley land so productive is the wonderfuly fertile volcanic soil. Irrigation is the other part of the equation. With the exception of acreage adjacent to the Snake River, the area around Twin Falls was pretty tough country until the Milner Dam was constructed near Burley, Idaho, during the first decade of the 20th century. The reservoir created by the dam and a complex system of canals and ditches literally transformed the area into one of the richest agricultural regions in the northwest. "This place was considered a wasteland before the dam," Bill explains. "Once the irrigation water started flowing, it was changed to what you see now - like magic."
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